Glitchin, I’m assuming you have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in design and live in one of the so-called (and probably mislabeled) “developed” countries?
I’ve stated here several times that I think my MFA was largely a waste of time, but I’ve never fully explained why or why I still think a master’s degree is a good thing to get.
My BFA school, University of Utah, had a good, well-respected undergraduate program. My mistake was, out of convenience, returning to the same school at my employer’s expense to get an MFA in what was, at the time, a terrible graduate program. I had worked professionally for about ten years, and found myself knowing more about the real world of design than either of the two academically minded professors on my graduate committee. It was a two-year exercise in patience dealing with those jokers.
That said, I’m strongly in favor of getting master’s degrees because, as you said Glitchin, it will improve your long-term career prospects. Twenty or thirty years ago, bachelor’s degrees weren’t strictly needed, but today that degree serves as a differentiator that, in the minds of many employers, separates a serious designer from the hoards of amateurs. Projecting that trend forward, it won’t be too long before a master’s degree becomes the credential that separates the serious professional designer from the less serious ones — at least in the minds of employers and HR departments.
A master’s degree likely won’t help you get that first or second design job for all the reasons Print Driver just mentioned. But ten or 15 years down the road you will have put in your time, won your share of awards and been promoted up the ranks a bit. Eventually, you’ll hit a ceiling (like it or not, in most companies and agencies, graphic design is a lower- to mid-level job).
About this time, if all goes well, you’ll be thinking about that creative, communication or marketing director VP position. But you’ll find yourself competing against people with master’s degrees in business, marketing, advertising and other related fields.
By this time, you’ve paid your dues, never stopped learning, done everything right and you know mental terabytes more than the newly graduated MBA idiot with the artificially whitened mouth full of smiling white teeth, you’ll be competing against. Unfortunately, the clueless upper management people who make hiring decisions for things they know nothing about will pay a whole lot more attention to their fellow MBA (or whatever) than to you — a not-quite-trusted designer who, in their minds, has a silly art degree.
I’ve seen it happen dozens of times, and it’s just going to get more and more competitive in the years to come.
If you’re really serious about your long-terms prospects (and you should be), what I would do is take your BA or BFA (or whatever) and work as a designer for about five years, then head back for a Master’s degree in a related field, like advertising or communication or some sort of impressive-sounding degree with a bunch of letters that will make it appear to the upper management bozos who will be interviewing you that you’re not some head-in-the-clouds artsy, fartsy lightweight who gets all emotional over silly things like colors and paper texture.
The mistake I would avoid making (from personal experience) is heading back for an MFA in design — even though those three letters have served me well. A degree in a complementary related field is the way to go. In the long-run you’ll stand a much better chance of getting that high-paying job where you’ll get to lord over those silly (but talented) artsy, fartsy designers still stuck in their lower-paying and less-respected design jobs.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are people who make very good money and are very successful doing nothing but design and who start up successful agencies or land multiple million-dollar accounts. But this is the rare exception and certainly not the rule. Instead, to maximize the chances of those long-term prospects you’re looking for, get that master’s degree sometime within the next ten years.
I’ve just summarized 40 years of my experience doing this stuff, but feel free to ignore it (at your own risk, of course) After you make your first ten million dollars, euros, pounds or whatever in a couple of decades, feel free to send a small check to whatever rest home I might be in at the time.